After having cited the Kandhmal riots as a reason for breaking with BJP, the Naveen Patnaik government has strongly challenged a list of those killed in the violence filed before Supreme Court alleging that some "victims" are still alive and even RSS activists have been included. The BJD-led government on Friday said the list of dead filed by Cuttack archbishop Raphael Cheenath contained names of RSS cadre killed by naxalites and some who are still alive. While Cheenath's list included names of 93 persons killed in the riots that engulfed nine blocks in Kandhmal in the bloody aftermath of the murder of Swami Lakshmananand Saraswati last year, the state in its affidavit said the toll was not more than 42. Explaining the wide gap between its own and Cheenath's toll figure, the state said: "The petitioner's list included the names of RSS activists -- Dhanurjaya Pradhani, Ajit Kumar Mallick and Prabhat Panigrahi -- allegedly killed by naxalites." Further, 10 persons, declared dead on Cheenath's list, were found alive, the state said, adding the archbishop's list also included three persons killed in police firing as well as two policemen. It is ironical that the Orissa government is claiming the number of dead has been exaggerated as this is an allegation levelled by the saffron brigade as well. The Patnaik's government's initial response to the violence was that it was more an ethnic conflict than a purely religious one and was blamed for appearing reluctant to take action against the rioters. It was when BJD and BJP seat-sharing talks broke down amid considerable acrimony did Patnaik bring up the Kandhmal riots and claimed that "every bone" in his body was "secular". Field inquiries from tehsildars and local police about missing names from the official list of those killed during the riots revealed that "in 10 cases, persons are still alive, in 25 cases persons have died because of chronic and other medical problems, in 12 cases reference/history of persons with reported names could not be traced in villages mentioned against their names, and in two cases villages mentioned could not be located," the Patnaik government said. The state said the Kandhmal district collector has sought further information from the archbishop on these cases by letters dated April 22 and April 30. The response is awaited, it said. The archbishop's counsel, senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, told a Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices P Sathasivam and B S Chauhan that the petitioner would respond to the Orissa government's affidavit but as an interim measure the court should direct urgent payment of compensation for damaged houses to the victims, which till date has not been fully paid. Appearing for the state, senior advocate K K Venugopal told the court that the government had done the maximum possible and paid compensation to all the families which had lost a member in the riots. He said the Centre has not provided its share of Rs 3 lakh to the victims. This was refuted by additional solicitor general Amarendra Saran, who said the Centre has till date received recommendation for payment of ex-gratia for 33 deaths and has cleared 30 cases for immediate payment. After the court directed expeditious payment of compensation, senior advocate Mukul Rohtagi alleged that the scheduled caste community `Panas' in collusion with the Christians were grabbing the land of the scheduled tribes for construction of churches. The Bench issued notice to the state to respond to the allegations.
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